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Karl Young Bio Notes


Bio statements in magazines and anthologies present puzzles. I usually haven't been satisfied with those I've written. I've seldom found those Iíve read interesting. If they've been informative, it has only been because they've pointed me to a title or publisher or gallery I would not otherwise have found.

The web, however, gives me the opportunities to experiment. What happens, for instance, if the bio statement can be a full bio, with examples of my other work and/or related work by other people and/or comments from others?

Serious bio notes sometimes suggest obituaries to me. The fact that the information ends at the time of publication reinforces this. Bio pages such as those I'm experimenting with can be updated. With notes like this one, authors can report on reactions to the work in the anthology, magazine, or other publication. If they want to tailor the bios to the publication, they can do so. I'm doing this with links from bio notes in several publications at present. I may link them to each other.

I don't know how much information readers want. I'm beginning this one with a guess. I assume I'll revise it as time goes by. Among other things, such revisions may suggest an optimum length and type of material to include.

I'll write a specific biography for this page when I've received comments from friends and colleagues, had a chance to see how it comes across to me over time, and find out how many people access it in relation to several publications. Even if this page does no more than test how much a real bio note can bore readers, we are still in a time to test possibilities in elecronic publishing rather than simply to continue customs carried over from print. That I came of age in the 1960s, the era that prodcued memoirs that apparently bore and/or annoy the largest number of readers may contribute to the experiment.

Presumably, I'll try other approaches to bio pages, and I hope learn a few things while having some fun with the process, and produces something that readers can find useful.

Ironically or appropriately, I don't particularly like writing autobiography. I'm putting this on line at a time when I've been prevented from doing the kind of work most important to me - from not having access to a decent library where I could access the historical sources that provided me with the material for my best, or at least most important, work; to not being able to engage in the kind of organization of shows, readings, and performances; and in manufacturing, editing, and publishing magazines, anthologies, books, and web sites that has been most essential to all my literary efforts, including my own writing; to watching the web enter a phase that could negate its usefulness, while not having the resources to produce books. During the last decade, I have used an autobiographical thread in essays to pull disparate material together. Ignoring the means of production and distribution during th last four decades has made literary and other artistic works more and more ephemeral and hence more susceptible to becoming inherently alienated and alienating elements in a consumerist support system for the literary equivalent of corporate uniformity and all the illusions that make centralized totalitarianism seem natural and appropriate. I have always worked against this move into abstraction. But my circumstances have been pushed back onto autobiography for some time both by my lack of resources and my commitment to a literry and artistic environment which is not inherently, and with the rise of mega corporations, ferociously, destructive to the production and knowledgeable use of everything from books to arts organizations to web sites.

I'm not criticizing people who run blogs. But for me, I'd rather create forms than fill them in. Perhaps this exercise in an author bio may suggest a means of starting a blog thatís less controlled by mega corporations and more like the eccentric publications I've engaged in since 1966...

Some General Bibliographies and Related Lists:

Tentative Index of On-Line Work by Karl Young Up to 2012

Light and Dust On-Line Anthology of Poetry


Bringing the Text Back Home
Autobiography and at Least One "Big Arc"

However much my work is built of small parts, starting with letters or photographs or other elementary components, I usually conceive of them as larger projects in advance or shortly after beginning to tinker with them. Most often, a book is my basic unit of composition, and I usually think in terms of books rather than pages. These books, even when they are relatively small, tend to generate related essays, and to interconnect with other books and sequences of books. When visualization is particularly important, in all types of strictly lexical genres as well as visual poetry and audio notation, I have thought in terms of two page openings. Electronic reading and publication may move me toward single pages - perhaps the process has already started.

Sequences of books, in turn, move toward what I call "big arcs." So far, only one big arc has been completed. I began it in the early 1970s, and my first steps became a short book which I separated from the big arc project which it initiated. Components of the project include two books of extended visual poetry published in the 1970s, new translations which function as integral components of th work's significance, an essay, and an autobiographical commentary. It will include additional sections of reviews and work by other people who used my original books as sources, but these are separate works in their own right, and not essential to the big arc itself. The project reached completion in 2011, and can be found at:

Bringing the Text Back Home

Leaf Mosaic
Autobiographical Essays Related to My Work

I have begun several projects which integrate autobiography with literary criticism, art and cultural history, comments on technology (including the nature of language and writing systems), and other genres and issues. As previously noted, in most of my work, I try to create interconnections and exchanges. In the last three decades, there have been times when I have had limited access to source material. This has slowed down or stopped the kinds of projects that were most important to me when I was younger.

One set, Leaf Mosaic, is a series of essays on the methods, evolution, significance, and interrelation of some of my books and major projects. Here is a list of those which appear in draft form on line:

Acoustic Books at the Beginning and End of the World

Minimalism's Expansions

The Valence of Fragments

Vocabularies, Fractals, and Semiconductors

A Middle America Water Table

Chinese Dialogues and Couplets

Five Kwaidan: Ghosts and Sleeve pages

Books Printed by Walter Tisdale

Beginning Milestones

Some Volumes of Poetry
Autobiographical Essays
on Publishing and Related Activities

As I worked on Leaf Mosaic, it occurred to me that I could use an autobiographical thread not only to elucidate and expand my own writing, but that if I did something similar with books I had printed or otherwise published; editorial projects I had conducted; Art Centers, events, shows, and other entities and projects I had created or founded, instigated, or participated in, I could simultaneously write about nearly everything involved in contemporary art and literature, and do so in a way that would further my desire to integrate and interrelate arts and what goes into them. Few critics and commentators have discussed the printing of books, even though one of the many meanings of the popular phrase "material text" and the left-wing political background of many poets, neglect the material production of books or the labor that goes into producing "material texts" in the most basic sense of that phrase. Likewise, many critics have not commented on the way that poets read or perform their work. Some of the interaction between artists makes good gossip, and I don't avoid that, but more practical and less flamboyant situations may be as important. A literary and cultural history of the milieu from which poems and related forms of art come enhances and makes accessible the work expands the interactions between individual works, movements, and broader patterns of development and change than most criticism involves. With these factors in mind, I began a series called Some Volumes of Poetry. Whatís on line so far begins at:

This Index Page at Big Bridge Magazine

The introduction you go to when you click the image, goes into some detail about the purpose and method of the project, as well as "triangulation," one of the conceptions that has been important to me in criticism and publishing. In my publishing efforts, I tend to concentrate on the people I publish. That usually means I publish more than one book by each writer or artist, and often reinforce, elucidate, and expand its potentials by writing criticism my self, generating criticism from other people, setting up readings, producing audio recordings, and doing anything else I can to make the work fuller and more accessible. This has meant publishing fewer people, but my basic feeling is that presenting the work of a few people in depth helps build audiences, and expanding audiences is more important than producing a few little nearly meaningless and highly forgettable tokens for a larger number of writers.

The first part of the on line Volumes of Poetry was titled 1970s Outreaches. It included comment on:

solo books by Carol Bergé, Hilary Ayer, Kathleen Wiegner, Nathaniel Tarn, and an essential project which started with Robert Filliouís 14 chansons et 1 charade, conventional translations into German by Dieter Roth and into English by George Brecht; then homoliguistic translations by Dick Higgins, bpNichol, and Steve McCaffery.

Books by bpNichol, and a collection of performance scores by him and the other members of the Four Horsemen performance group.

Books by Jackson Mac Low.

Books by John Taggart.

An account of how Pat Wagner and I created The Water Street Arts Center, parent organization to the still functioning Woodland Pattern Book Center.

My Margins Symposium series. This began in Margins magazine, and continued in other publications after Margins folded. I edited some myself, co-edited others, and commissioned others without participation or interference from me. This spread of editorial involvements was part of my experiments with different editorial approaches, the triangulation process, and, in some instances, the sense that the guest editor was as important as the subject. Most of these have lasted in one way or another, and parts of them are still in use. Most comments on Rochelle Owens written in the last decade and a half have cited contributions to my symposium on her, often those I reproduced on the web. Ron Sillimanís symposium on Clark Coolidge gets cited often Ė this includes Silliman himself saying it did more than anything else to convince him of the importance of being able to write about contemporary work; the iconic study of alternate publishing during the period, A Secret Location on the Lower East Side, it is listed as one of the half dozen most important publications of 1977. For visual poets, the symposium on Tom Phillips, Ian Tyson, and Joe Tilson would probably be most important.

Books by Martin J. Rosenblum, John Kingsley Shannon, and Toby Olson.

The first two magazines I worked on.

The second part is oriented toward mail art, and hence particularly important to visual poets and those interested in it. The sections include an essay on how d.a.levy introduced me to Lettrisme and mail art I produced from processes that made use of specific and characteristic properties of the offset printing press I used to produce books in the 1970s and 1980s. Samples from an exchange of e-mail art between Reid Wood and me over a fourteen year period. Commentary on stamp art by Rafael Jesus Martinez and anthology contributor Joel Lipman. Time and the Mail Art Network — detailed chapter from a book of extended commentary. Correspondence Art Solos and Choruses — commentary on solo and collaborative work by David Cole and anthology contributors, K.S. Ernst and Marilyn R. Rosenberg. Survey of International Shadows Project: a major mail art sub-genre that went on for at least a decade.

The third part deals with books by Michael McClure and anthology contributors Michael Basinski and Karl Kempton.

The fourth part deals with unusual circumstances and problems: Elder Books — as projects for elders, and as documentation. A description and promotional essay I wrote for a program for troubled inner city teens, using the prestige books still had before the days of print on demand. Art and real estate: how artists gentrify neighborhoods — particularly important for everyone in 2010. Writing job recommendations as a literary genre — using a recommendation for anthology contributor Joel Lipman as an example. Link to web memorial to my father.

After the fourth installment, I moved this project to Light and Dust. Bringing the Text Back Home was the first part of the series at the new location.

Toward an Ideal Anthology

Circumstances have at time isolated me as far as my residence goes. And at times I have found it important to work in solitude. Hence I have at times been labelled a recluse. This involves several misunderstandings. The majority of my big arc pojects have involved some form of collaboration. I have seldom gone for more than a year or two without engaging in editorial and publishing projects. These have complex motives and methods behind them. They include the stimulous of working with other people. The way woking with authors and artists gives me the opportunity to understand tehir work and the options open to me in my own. According to William Blake, he who does not create his own mythology is condemned to being enslaved by someone else's. The extreme conformity of literary movements in the last decades has made it essential to me to propose alternate literary ecosystems to those which others seek to impose. Giving those who have been excluded the opportunity to be read frees me as well as them. Although I may be a dedicated contrarian, excess stubbornness can be as oppressive as the demands for conformity different literary and artistic cadres impose. Generally speaking, the happiest people I have met have been those who have focused a great deal of their time and energy on doing things for other people. Outside the arts and a few special interpersonal relationships, I have felt most satisfied working in community services and non or minimally prosyletizing political action. However much conditions in the world call for outrage and resistance, both isolation and combat cut you off from the satisfaction in and relief of getting out of yourself and taking part in the activities of other people without trying to push something on them or expect a reward. And so on through a long list that has constantly lead me back to editing and publishing, and that has made me miserble when I have gone too long without this kind of activity. Despite the potential length of the list of reasons for editing and publishing, the one I'd like to conclude with is the opportunity such activities offer for experiment, invention, and exploration. Although nothing has been more satisfying in this area than producing books as part of the editing and publishing project, it would have been difficult for me to pass up the opportunity to explore electronic publication, begining with simple BBS and FTP methods before the web opened up and going on line in 1994, as soon as it was posible to do so. This gave me opportunities for producing the kind of anthology I could not have afforded in print. That may turn out to be the most important advantge for publishing of the last two two decades, even, paradoxicaly, if it only last for a brief flash before the web turns into a means of manipulating us. My essential essay on this flash in the progression of editorial projects I've engaged in can be found here:

Toward an Ideal Anthology

And my effort at constructing an ideal anthology can be found here:

Light and Dust

The "Ideal Anthology" essay will probably be the base of a series of considerations of anthologies, and not only the web's capacities for extending the potentials of anthologies, but the limitations of electronic publcation. At the moment, the benefits of the web seem to be collapsing and/or taken over by entities and phenomena as large and diverse as the NSA, commercial exploitations, and problems adjusting to electronics on the part of writers, their estates, and, indeed, potentially anyone involved in publishing or reading. Such problems may be temporary and may, in the long run, stimulate invention. As part of my original conceptions translation and multiligual presentation played important roles. This first addition maintains the optimism of the first essay:

Some Functions of Translation in The Ideal Anthology

— Karl Young


Return to Light and Dust

Light and Dust Anthology of Poetry